Designer sees course as dramatic, diverse

Tee times won’t be available until late summer 2008, but the rough contours of all 18 holes at WSU’s new Palouse Ridge Golf Course are clearly visible and the “shaping” is in progress.

According to course architect John Harbottle III, it is proving to be an intriguing, dramatic course.

“I really liked the opportunity we had to create diversity with the character and length of holes,” Harbottle said. For instance, the course includes a par 3 hole that is 140 yards, and another par 3 that is 240 yards.

“You’ll be able to use every club in the bag,” he said, and laughed.

Harbottle, whose offices are in Tacoma, designed the Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash., and other top-rated courses, including the Savannah Course at Stevinson Ranch in Stevinson, Calif. That course earned a “Best of Golf Award” from Links Magazine and Audubon International for significant achievement in preservation of natural resources and wildlife conservation.

“There will be a lot of variety to how these holes can be played,” he said. Each hole will have five different tee positions. From the shortest tees, the course is 5,289 yards; from the longest tees, it is 7,308 yards. And it’s not just the distance that varies. For those who need more challenge than hitting it straight down the fairway, the holes will encourage experimenting with hooks, fades, in the air and on the ground.

Keeping it affordable
Melvin Taylor, WSU’s executive director of real estate and external affairs, said the goal is for Palouse Ridge to be one of the top five courses in Washington state and an appropriate venue for an NCAA tournament.

CourseCo, a golf management and construction company based in Petaluma, Calif., will be managing the course and is working out a fee schedule that will be published in March. The course needs to make a profit, Taylor said, but the fees will be affordable to students and Palouse-area golfers.

The estimated $8.4 million course and driving range cover 315 acres, replacing the old nine-hole course near the Student Recreation Center and expanding to the east and south. The course is being funded through private donations.

This spring workers will continue shaping the greens and fairways along with installing a pumping station and state-of-the-art irrigation system. If work continues as expected, Taylor said, workers may be able to seed the course in September. The driving range — with WSU golf team and PE class tees at one end and public tees at the other, both hitting toward the center — will be the first part of the course to open, possibly as early as spring 2008.

Water issues
Of the 13 daily-fee golf courses that CourseCo manages, 11 have been certified by the Audubon Society for their environmental stewardship. The key to operating an environmentally sustainable golf course, said Tom Issak, president of CourseCo, is creating effective and efficient drainage and irrigation systems right from the beginning.
“It’s crucial to natural turf health,” he said.
Ray Davies, director of golf maintenance and construction for CourseCo, said the irrigation system should achieve about 90 percent efficiency, compared to about 30 percent efficiency for most home watering systems.

The system utilizes 20 to 30 computerized field monitors networked to a main computer, as well as valves under each sprinkler head and an on-site weather station. The course superintendent can program each sprinkler head, factoring in such variables as evaporation, precipitation and microclimates, thereby avoiding overwatering. Only turf grass areas will be irrigated, leaving significant areas naturalized.

Complement environment
According to the plans, the fairways will be bluegrass, and fescue will be planted on the perimeter to blend in with the natural surroundings. While the greens will be green, the intent is to take advantage of the natural landscape and create a course that complements the environment rather than competes with it.

 “The site there in the Palouse is a pretty severe site,” Harbottle said. Most hills slope at about 20 percent, but fairways can’t slope more than 5 percent or the golf ball will just keep rolling.

The tops of some hills had to be “melted,” but as much as possible Harbottle said he tried to maintain the natural terrain and complement the beauty of the Palouse.

“When the golf course is interesting, it makes it fun to play even if you aren’t having the best game of your life,” he said.

Clubhouse work starts in April
Construction is set to begin in April on a $4 million clubhouse at the Palouse Ridge Golf Course. Mel Taylor, WSU’s executive director of real estate and external affairs, said the 7,000-square-foot clubhouse — situated on a hill near the 5th and 6th holes of the old course — could open as early as spring 2008.

It will feature fine dining and banquet facilities for 80-100 people and would be appropriate for special events, weddings and other formal celebrations.

 “It’ll have an awesome view of campus and Moscow Mountain,” he said. “Very awesome.”

Both the golf course and the clubhouse are being privately funded. Taylor said the university has raised more than half of what is needed so far.

“We’ll get there,” he said. “We’re really pleased with the way donations are coming in.”